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Sustainable packaging an expectation and not a trend

New measures on packaging, waste and plastic will contribute to Europe’s transition towards reaching the EU’s climate commitments and sustainable development goals.

Over 600 business executives heard how a change in packaging design and material can help them meet their own sustainability commitments and goals at Smurfit Kappa’s recent Better Planet Packaging Innovation conference in Amsterdam. 

The aim of the company’s Better Planet Packaging initiative is to support more sustainable consumption and production patterns for packaging that will require a big shift in consumer behaviour and place new responsibilities on producers. 

The conference heard the packaging industry plays a crucial role in adopting sustainable strategies and developing innovative eco-friendly models for product packaging. Now that the shift towards sustainability has become front and centre in the minds of consumers, businesses know they need to make changes and are keen to learn and implement.

Launching the conference, Smurfit Kappa CEO Tony Smurfit said that when he took over, he wanted the company to be globally admired, dynamically delivering superior returns to stakeholders.

 “Our last stakeholder is our planet. I’ll be honest. If I was standing here 20 years ago, I might have said these words, but I might not have recognised the importance of them. I think today, everybody says the words and recognised their importance,” he says. 

 “When my granddad started out 80 years ago in packaging, the box was brown, it was simple and it got goods from point A to point B. We can now use packaging to not only promote your brand but protect your reputation and reduce plastic waste," he said. 

The conference heard the closure of the Chinese market for low cost recycling of plastics has brought the issue back to Europe and is at the forefront of customers minds. The European Union's Single Use Plastics (SUP) Directive and Circular Economy Package, including legislative changes to waste management, means Europe has taken the lead globally on tackling plastic waste. 

Naturalist and wildlife TV presenter Steve Backshall said the effects of poor packaging and single use plastic are destroying the environment and we must curtail the damage for the sake of future generations. "There is no other species on earth that destroys the environment it relies on to survive. Becoming a father made me sit up and think even more about the environment so that my children wouldn't say to me in years to come - Daddy, what did you do about it?" said Mr Backshall.

Co-President of Industries at SAP, Lori Mitchell-Keller shared her insights into the future of supply chains and how customers can leverage today's intelligent technology. She explained how the consumers of the present and the future are more environmentally aware and look for a more personalised approach when making purchasing decisions. 

"Millennials are going to be responsible for 30 per cent of all sales by 2020. There will be more and more demand for individualised products and customers want to feel like they are buying a product with purpose," said Ms Mitchell-Keller. She predicts a move away from mass production to mass customisation, but that packaging must be sustainable, eco-friendly and have little or no plastic waste.